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It’s Never Good Enough

March 19th, 2024 Leave a comment Go to comments

This piece is inspired by a podcast to which I subscribe, entitled; Inner French.  The topic was the extent to which people have become unwittingly enslaved by the many electronic devices available in modern society. Specifically, this podcaster, Hugo Cotton, discusses the degree to which his daily activities became obsessively tied to the tabulations put out by his exercise watch.

While ostensibly, the watch was just an appendage to show time and distance travelled on his jogging runs, the other aspects of his life also monitored by the watch began to create a need in his mind to attain prescribed targets of things such as sleep duration and quality. In essence, he realized that this obsession with reaching targets prescribed by the watch were having adverse effects on his life and thus, he stopped wearing it except for the jogging runs.

I found this to be an interesting observation as this phenomenon has enslaved an entire world by linking their lives to electronic devices.  Of course, we’re not talking about basic smartphones per se; everyone in the world has one and that device is indelibly linked to each person’s lives and personality.  But phones are not just about basic communication as we all know.

What is more troubling is that people have fallen into the trance conveyed primarily by their phones on how to live their lives in general.

In the not too distant past, if people saw something on television or read something in a newspaper, it was deemed to be true, thus those platforms had enormous impact on people.  Clearly those who controlled those outlets would have significant leverage on any given society.  Cellphones, or more specifically, apps on smartphones have mostly taken over the role of TV and newspapers.  Instagram and Facebook are the modern equivalent of unimpeachable sources.

For some reason, there are endless tips and sage advice on how to ‘better’ one’s life or to more effectively perform some mundane task such as frying an egg or tying a shoe. Apparently we’ve been doing it wrong for centuries. There are targets given for physical competence, for cognitive ability or for raising your dogs and children.  We are given advice on the best foods to eat, at what time of the day to eat them, the subtleties of olive oil and the best things to buy at Costco.

We are measured against some mythical statistics on longevity and are given advice on how to attain such immortality by consuming the right amount of kale or by walking 8000 steps per day and drinking organic coconut water. Often this advice is given by 20 something year old ‘influencers’ with acne who’ve just graduated from high school (or not).  Not only that, but apps are always available to measure the targets of such an idealized life. As noted in Hugh Cotton’s experience, people fuss over reaching statistical targets arbitrarily set by ‘experts’.

And people believe it.  They believe the advice on how to get wealthy simply by leveraging themselves in real estate or to put it all into Crypto currencies. People become stressed when they compare the ‘progress’ in their lives versus those depicted on social media platforms. It is never good enough. Invariably, people will find famous people who will espouse sentiments favorable to their own and thus the modern phenomenon of ‘following’ people becomes the norm. Admit it or not, the phenomenon of hanging on to every word of powerful influencers is as additive as any drug.

With great irony, the proliferation of ‘information’ on so many levels creates more stress in people than the liberating health benefits that these devices purport to provide.  There are unrealistic expectations created to which people cannot achieve, thus fostering people’s natural insecurities. Think of the business model of Peloton, the stationary virtual bike machine in which you are on a leaderboard against other cyclists.   Think ab0ut Duolingo, a language learning app in which you are on a leaderboard with other learners.  While it can be argued that these are just effective tools,  in practice, people can become handcuffed to their own unrealistic expectations and perceived inadequacies and in fact may bring out obsessive behaviors.   By their own hand, people have increasingly and unknowingly chained themselves to their electronic devices.

It’s worthwhile to remember that not all ‘statistically’ derived advice is valid. Some of us will remember that in the 1960’s, 4 out of 5 doctors recommended a certain brand of cigarette. And we must not forget the famous phrase attributed to Mark Twain: “…there are lies, damned lies and statistics…”


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